Best Oscar Speeches

With the 82nd Academy Awards airing this weekend (March 7th), there’s bound to be some memorable speeches as always. Maybe James Cameron will win and make a complete egotistical jackass of himself, or surely Gabourey Sidibe will give an amazing speech if she wins (fingers crossed!) Who will get the music (everyone but Meryl Streep), and who will deliver the most noteworthy speeches of the 2010 Oscars? We’ll have to wait and see, of course. But in the meantime, here are my picks for some of the most interesting, most poignant, most ridiculous, but overall most memorable acceptance speeches.

Cuba Gooding Jr., winning in 1997 for Jerry MaguireJovial and genuinely ecstatic, Cuba Gooding Jr. is enjoyable to watch during this speech. Unfortunately for him, that year’s Oscars were heavy-handed with the rude “hint to get off the stage” music during everyone’s speeches. But Cuba? He doesn’t care – he just keeps on going. As one YouTube commenter said, “It’s almost like the music was designed to go with his speech.”

George Clooney winning in 2006 for Syriana“Alright, well I guess I’m not winning DIRECTOR,” the charming Clooney jokes. While he won for this role in Syriana, he was also nominated in the Best Director category that year for Good Night, and Good Luck. It starts off on a light note, but Clooney takes the opportunity to also give Hollywood more credit than it’s usually given – “This academy, this group of people gave Hattie McDaniel an Oscar in 1939 when Blacks were still sitting in the backs of theaters.” This probably gets the award for least “all about me with 1,000 people to thank” acceptance speech. Clooney used his time in a different way.

Tom Hanks winning in 1994 for PhiladelphiaTom Hanks gave one of the classiest, yet profoundly candid speeches with this one for Philadelphia. Since his role in the film was a gay male living with AIDS, he was very careful to speak respectfully and appreciatively of gays and people living with HIV or AIDS. This one is a tear-jerker, especially when he pays homage to his two gay theatre teachers.

Catherine Zeta-Jones winning in 2003 for ChicagoThis one’s just cute. Catherine Zeta-Jones gets up onstage – extremely pregnant, but looking gorgeous – and admits that the combination of things is too much for her hormones, which gets a laugh. The other great part is when she tells her husband, Michael Douglas, that she shares the award with him “and this one too.” Though the camera cuts away in a most untimely manner, we can only assume she’s pointing to her belly.

Dustin Lance Black winning in 2009 for MilkWhen Dustin Lance Black got onstage to accept the award for Best Original Screenplay for the biopic about gay rights activist and politician Harvey Milk, the first thing I was struck by was how young and handsome he appeared. Then, I proceeded to bawl my eyes out as he gave a very touching (understatement) speech about how Harvey Milk helped him personally growing up as a gay male in a conservative family. He also shares some empowering words ensuring young gay Americans that one day they will have the federal rights they deserve. A truly beautiful and incomparable speech. It makes me cry every time I watch it.

Halle Berry winning in 2002 for Monster’s Ball - You really can’t talk about Oscar speeches without mentioning Halle Berry’s. “74 years here, I gotta take this time!” she shouted as she became the first Black woman to ever win an Academy Award for Best Actress. In her shocked and vulnerable state, she poured her heart out and made all of her fellow nominees cry along with her. This is now a historical Oscar acceptance speech, and might just be the most memorable and noteworthy of them all. Not only did she fully deserve the award for her amazing performance in Monster’s Ball, but she made history when her name was called.

Weirding Up the Romance: Cult Classics for V-Day

Originally posted on Examiner.com and my Open Salon blog.

Why watch the upcoming Valentine’s Day with an overload of trite story lines and actors when you can watch these strange cult films instead? Yes, cult classics can tell stories of romance and sex…Just don’t expect it to be mainstream love.

Some of the best romantic couples on screen were the most interesting and complex ones found in films that had a cult status. Below are some recommended cult films, or films that have strange and fascinating couples.

Weird up the romance this Valentine’s Day weekend with the following movies:

  • Harold and Maude (1971). Beware – This first one is probably the weirdest. Hal Ashby directs this black comedy in which a 19-year-old boy (Harold) begins a relationship with a 79-year-old woman (Maude). And yes, it turns sexual. The film is surprisingly heart-warming, but in a way that involves themes of death, friendship, and human connection. Don’t let the storyline scare you – It’s worth the watch.
  • Fight Club (1999). Whether or not the film Fight Club - directed by David Fincher – is a cult classic is debatable and depends on who you ask. But the audience appreciation (which happened after its DVD release) much resembles the cult “fight club” gang that makes up the movie. Why is it relevant for a cult classic V-Day weekend? Two words: Marla Singer. Played by Helena Bonham Carter, she and Edward Norton’s character (The Narrator) find each other through support group meetings – and both of them are imposters. The story takes many surprising twists and turns, but ultimately, this destructive pair is one you can’t forget.
  • Punch-Drunk Love (2002). Though not a box office success, a select many have come to love this off-beat love story directed by Paul Thomas Anderson. Another dark comedy, Adam Sandler breaks out of his typecast and surprises with this performance as Barry – a loner with severe rage issues. He meets Lena (Emily Watson) after she tracks him down with the help of one of his seven sisters, but many complications start to challenge their new romance. By the end of the film, it’s clear that their connection is due to their individual oddities, which help them understand each other in ways that no one else could. Not your average pair, but an intriguing one nonetheless.

So there you have it! Non-Hollywood films with couples that can shake up any Valentine’s Day movie plans. Have a film in mind that I didn’t mention? Share it in the comments!

Updated: Last-Minute Movie Rush List

Back in December, I posted this list of films I’ve been meaning to see before the awards season of 2010. Well, the Globes came and went, and now my new deadline is the Oscars.

By March 7th, I will try to see:

  • Crazy Heart
  • The White Ribbon
  • An Education
  • Bright Star
  • Up
  • District 9

As of today, from the original list I’ve seen:

  • A Serious Man
  • Up in the Air
  • Precious
  • A Single Man
  • Avatar
  • The Hurt Locker

It makes it easier that three of the films I still need to see can be rented via Netflix.

Any other suggestions or lists of your own you’d like to share? Please do!

Nominees Announced for the 2010 Oscars

This morning, the Academy announced the nominations for the 2010 Oscars, coming up on March 7th. The first thought that ran through my head was, What?! No nominations for ‘Broken Embraces’?! At all?! (Expect more on that later.) And then I was relieved that Gabby (Gabourey) Sidibe was indeed nominated for Precious. (And now I’ll just have to keep my fingers crossed that she wins over Sandra Bullock.) Now that I can see it filled, I still find the expanded-to-ten Best Picture category confusing and unnecessary. It just feels sort of random.

Another snub, in my opinion, is in the Best Original Score category. A Single Man definitely deserved to be recognized, but wasn’t.

But enough of that. Here are the 2010 Academy Award nominees after the jump! Share your thoughts and comments.

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Oprah Encourages Audience to Pity Leno, Not Conan

The media and the public have been going crazy about Jay Leno’s interview with Oprah yesterday. You can find people tweeting about it even today, and the “I’m with Coco” Facebook page has received almost thousands of comments regarding the Oprah show. (Beware: Some of the comments say nasty things about both Jay and Oprah. These people are hardcore.)

As someone who considers herself on Team Conan, I made a point to watch the show yesterday morning. The interview itself was obviously supposed to redeem whatever’s left of Leno’s “everyday nice guy” image, and many writers have been referring to the episode as a means of “damage control” for Jay. For the general public and the media, it didn’t work. People are still siding with Conan. But for Oprah and her stage audience? Well, that’s a different story.

Since Leno came off as aloof, unemotional, and an NBC puppet, the interview was not as enlightening as I had expected it to be. The most dramatic part was probably when Oprah told Jay she thought the jokes at Letterman about his infidelity were “beneath” him, and Leno lied saying he only told one Letterman joke all week. (False. He told more than one.) And the only tough question Oprah really asked was why Leno didn’t just pack up and leave after NBC “fired” (more like pandered to) him twice. Jay responded that he’s just a guy who got fired from his job, and when offered his old job back, he took it.

“And really, who can blame him?” is what we are supposed to think after watching this. But as far as I can tell, the only people who fell into this trap were the people in Oprah’s audience for the after-show debate about the late night controversy. You can watch the whole video on Oprah’s official website.  For Conan fans, it will be truly infuriating to watch.

In a nutshell: The audience has watched the already-taped interview with Leno, and Oprah opens up a floor of discussion that’s supposed to include both arguments in favor of either Conan or Leno. For the next half hour or so, Oprah shoves the Leno bias down her audience’s throats, saying constantly after explaining something, “Do you all understand that? Do you realize that’s what happened here?”

She won’t let up, and then the audience turns out to be almost completely on Leno’s side. In fact, the only people who get applause after their arguments are the ones defending Leno. Oprah repeats her arguments in favor or Leno, and basically ends up regurgitating what Jay already said in the interview.

Highlights of points from both Oprah and her audience are listed below. (The parentheses include my commentary):

  • Jay Leno is just a guy who lost his job.
  • Jay Leno is just a guy who took back his job when it was offered to him.
  • Jay Leno does not consider himself a talk show host; he considers himself a stand-up comedian. (Except he’s not funny, so how do you figure that?)
  • Jay Leno “wasn’t done yet” when NBC told him to pass the torch to Conan.
  • Jay Leno deserves 30 years just like Johnny Carson. (Dear God, help us all.)
  • Jay Leno was No. 1 on the Tonight Show for many years after 17 years.
  • After 7 whole months, Conan was NOT No. 1! What a failure!
  • Conan just couldn’t get the ratings. TV is about the ratings.
  • Leno doesn’t own himself – NBC does.
  • Unlike Leno, Oprah owns herself.
  • “Team Coco” should have watched the Tonight Show with Conan O’Brien while it was on the air, instead of just supporting him after he was about to leave. (Okay Oprah, I’ll give you that.)
  • Jay Leno is a nice, funny guy.
  • David Letterman is a bully.
  • No one should feel sorry for Conan – he got 40-something million dollars. (And, as proof that he’s a better person than Leno, shared it with his whole staff.)
  • Many people in the audience really had no clue what happened in the Late Show War except for what they saw in the Oprah interview. (Great. And now you’re getting air time to debate the issue.)
  • Asked multiple times by Oprah: “Raise your hands if you changed your mind after watching this interview.”
  • As far as O is concerned, you damn well should have changed your mind after this interview.
  • NBC handled this whole thing poorly and was unfair to both O’Brien and Leno.

And, my favorite repeated point from Ms. Winfrey:

  • That’s just how TV works. Tough.

What a crock of…Ahem. Sorry, Team Conan coming out. I don’t want to start hating on O, but basically, the degree to how one-sided this whole group discussion was really disgusted me. I wish I had been in that audience, so I could’ve pointed out all the things in defense of Conan that were conveniently left out of the conversation.

Oh, and by the way – Happy Birthday, Oprah.

Best and Worst of the 2010 Golden Globes

BEST:

  • All of the NBC jabs. From everyone.
  • The opening jokes from Ricky Gervais about the differences between the British and American Office
  • Mo’Nique winning for Precious. Totally deserved it. Her speech was touching also.
  • Alec Baldwin winning for 30 Rock
  • Ricky Gervais: “I enjoy a drink as much as the next man…Unless the next man is Mel Gibson!”
  • Christopher Waltz winning for his performance in Inglourious Basterds
  • Martin Scorsese’s cute speech sounding more like a film school lecture than an acceptance speech for a career achievement award
  • This tweet from Lizz Winstead of The Daily Show: “James Cameron is looking more and more like Bea Arthur.”

WORST:

  • Most of Gervais’ hosting
  • Alec Baldwin not being present to accept his award for 30 Rock
  • Sandra Bullock winning for The Blind Side over Gabby Sidibe in Precious. Yes, you read that right. SANDRA BULLOCK won over PRECIOUS’s Gabby Sidibe.
  • James Cameron winning Best Director and then quoting his own movie in the “Na’vi language”
  • The poor layout of the awards ceremony making it difficult for anyone to get up to the front to accept their awards
  • Cuing the music for everyone EXCEPT Meryl Streep
  • A lack of awards for Inglourious Basterds, which I had expected
  • A lack of awards for Precious, which I hadn’t expected
  • A lack of George Clooney, just in general
  • Chloe Sevigny’s dress, which apparently “got stepped on and ripped,” even though you couldn’t tell a difference because it was kind of a mess

I never regret watching the Globes, but this year I think I enjoyed baking cookies during the show more than I enjoyed the actual awards ceremony itself. (Crunchy fudge cookies, for anyone who’s wondering.)

Top 50 Films of the 2000s

As what’s left of 2009 runs out, I’ve been inspired by Salon.com‘s “Films of the Decade” series written by guest writers. Not to mention the numerous other movie blogs that list their personal picks for the best movies of the decade.

Being one of the most indecisive people I know, this list was very difficult to finalize. I somehow narrowed it down from 83 to 50. Don’t ask me how. It’s strange to to think back to a certain movie from, say, 2003, and realize I was sixteen when I first saw it. But I feel a sense of accomplishment and enjoyed looking through and reminiscing about all of my favorite films from the 2000s.

Though it was tough, it has to be better than coming up with a “Best of 2009″ list. (Because I feared I’d come up with too few to even make a list for this year.) You may disagree with my rankings or even have suggestions for missing films. Please feel free to comment and share your thoughts and favorites on the best films of the decade!

WARNING: All Harry Potter and Lord of the Rings fans, please don’t send me hate mail. I’m just a party pooper who couldn’t get into those series…I apologize in advance for being the idiot you’ve already assumed I am.

TOP 50 FILMS OF THE 2000s

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Things to Look Forward to in 2010, #4: Movie Rush before Awards Season

My list of movies to rush and see before the Golden Globes and Oscars of 2010:

  • A Serious Man
  • Up in the Air
  • Avatar
  • Precious
  • The Hurt Locker
  • Crazy Heart
  • The White Ribbon
  • An Education
  • Bright Star
  • Up
  • District 9
  • A Single Man

Am I ashamed as a recent film school grad / film blogger that I have not seen some of these films yet? Yes. Very much so. I blame the overpriced movie tickets.